Theme and Variations

Here's the big win: these things take about half an hour to cook, and they are really "home-cooked". The cleanup is also fairly easy as things made by me go; there's not a lot of prep mess, and it's a fairly small amount of dirty dishes. These keep well enough to get entirely eaten.

The Basic

At a loss for something to do with almost an entire container of ricotta cheese, after I'd used about two tablespoons of it, I found a frittata recipe. Since I've been successful on the Zone diet, I'm trying to make this a zoney recipe, which means cutting out a lot of the saturated fat.

I think the pan is a key ingredient in this recipe: I have a lot of trouble cooking on non-stick aluminum, and vastly prefer cast iron because of its heat retention. I burn things on aluminum! You're supposed to reserve a pan strictly for omelets, but I use my pan for everything except long term cooking of highly acidic foods like tomato sauce. If you haven't tried cooking with cast iron, it's a treat once you get the pan seasoned, and well worth the wait. I've been cooking with mine for over five years now, and I'm about to start a new pan which I'd like to reserve strictly for omelets. Another bonus: it's a lot harder to damage the surface than with non-stick teflon.

The basic recipe involves heating the pan, adding fat of some sort (I use the Frugal-Gourmet recommended half butter and half olive oil, to cut saturated fat), whipping the eggs with water, and then pouring the eggs in the pan, much as one would make an omelet. Some recipes specify running the spatula under the setting eggs so that the runny eggs get underneath to set. I like this idea, as I don't like "eggy" food. Also note that most people make theirs with six whole eggs! I'm playing around with cutting the egg yolks out of mine.

Once the eggs start to set, add enough filling to make the eggs puff up, so that it mostly fills the pan. When it's mostly set, top with grated parmesan and pop under the broiler until it's nicely browned. If you've never had a frittata, it's like a crustless quiche or pie. It stores and reheats nicely.

Trial 1: Ricotta, Spinach and Green Onions

The eggs were fridge-temperature, not the Frugal-Gourmet-recommended room temperature, though I did leave them out about a half hour before starting. I added the chopped chives to the eggs.

I steamed the spinach together with the basil for a few minutes, then whirred up in the food processor. Meanwhile, I sauteed the green onions and sausage patties (really, vegetarian sausage patties, but they are nice and sausage-y without being so bad for you) in the pan with a touch of olive oil. When they were soft, I took them out, added more olive oil, and put the whipped eggs in. While the eggs were beginning to set up, I mixed the ricotta into the green mixture, and added the green onions.

When the omelet was nicely setting up but still pretty runny, I dumped everything into the center. I was lacking parmesan, so I just topped with salt and pepper. Some slightly nervous time under the broiler, and it was done; I didn't get it as brown as I wanted because the lack of fat (and no cheese topping) meant it was more prone to burning, so it was a little uneven on top, but it did brown in a few places.

I was worried it wouldn't set up properly, but it actually did... but when it was warm it was pretty runny from the soft ricotta! It was also overly basil-like; I think the basil detracted from the lovely green taste of the spinach and green onions, so I'd do without, or without so much, in the future. It also needs something to keep the structural integrity; the ricotta is too floppy. But it was darn tasty.

Trial 2: Asparagus, Bell Pepper, and Canadian Bacon

This probably takes a little explaining: the veggie Canadian bacon is fat free and made out of soy. It tastes pretty realistic, so I wouldn't go serving it to anyone who's a vegetarian for ethical reasons; save it for the recidivist meat eaters.

I used room temperature eggs this time, and as a filling tried to use up some odds and ends in my fridge.

Steam the asparagus, sautee the "bacon" with the bell peppers, and throw the tomatoes in at the end so they cook a little.

In this case, I used 2 whole eggs and 5 egg whites, and this may have been a little too far in the white direction. They cooked up fast, and I had bad timing on the fillings. I also made FAR TOO MUCH filling, so it came out more like a casserole than a pie.

Other mistakes: didn't slice the asparagus ahead of time, which contributed to the over-setting. Ditto tomatoes. The grater was hiding! The slivers of parmesan I hastily knifed off the wedge and scattered on top were just not as good as grated would've been. It all tasted decent, but wasn't the happy success the first try was; but all in all a learning experience. I would say that 3 egg yolks is the minimum; this was just too "egg white". It was fresh food and therefore beats the expedient frozen dinner fare, but far too ugly to serve to a guest!

Trial 3: Asparagus, Bell Pepper, and Canadian Bacon

To Think About

I'd like to try some gorgonzola in this; there's a restaurant that makes a baked bread appetizer with gorgonzola in it that is just divine, and it'd be nice to have something like that.

How about a sweet frittata? There's no rule that it has to be savory; I'd like to try it with blueberry or apple fillings, probably with my friend ricotta to make it nice and creamy. Cottage cheese might go surprisingly well in here, too, and probably would have more structural integrity than ricotta.

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Last modified: April 15, 1997 /